Straight talk from Bob Lutz on 6 auto CEOs

Auto legend Bob Lutz grades his former bosses on leadership in his new memoir, Icons and Idiots.

Always outspoken
BOB20 Bob Lutz
Bob Lutz, seen here standing under a GM Volt in 2009

Since retiring in 2010 after nearly five decades as a top executive at four automakers, Bob Lutz has found a second career as a myth-puncturing author and speaker. In this highly personal follow-up to Car Guys vs. Bean Counters, published in 2011, Lutz relates what he calls the "bizarre foibles and rank stupidity" of his bosses, and grades them on their leadership qualities. Lutz is a hard marker: Most of the CEOs in Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership are found wanting in several qualities.

This book is about leaders and leadership, a compendium from my more than 60 years of observation. These tales do not constitute a "hatchet" job or an attempt to "get even." The years have caused anger and resentment to dissipate. What I have attempted to do is to show the complexities of successful leaders by exposing both their human weaknesses and, in most cases, their successes. My bottom line is that most successful leaders are mentally and emotionally askew. It's precisely that they are impatient, stubborn, opinionated, unsatisfied, and domineering that makes them successful.

Since the business world likes quantification, I have attempted to craft a brief overview of each of the subjects examined in this book. I have evaluated them, using a scale of 1 to 10, on the leadership traits I personally believe are the most important: integrity, courage, style, communication skill, toughness, adaptability, consistency and focus, sense of priority, creativity, and results. A perfect score would be 345.


This article is adapted from Icons and Idiots by Bob Lutz, published by Portfolio on June 4, 2013. All rights reserved.
  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated June 04 2013 07:34 AM ET
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